My elementary and junior high school years were difficult. My parents divorced when I was ten years old, my brother was nine, and my sister was five. Home life was not easy.
Although school could have been a place to get away from the unhappiness at home, it was often worse. I had some friends, but I also had enemies for no apparent reason. Starting in fourth grade, they chased me after school and tried to beat me up. I had to run home almost daily. In our last year at that school, I was relieved — until I learned that all of us would go to the same junior high school.
Seventh grade was farther from home, yet not far enough for me to take the bus. I ran the mile or so home every day. Often, I’m sure there weren’t any bullies waiting for me, but I didn’t want to take any chances.
In the cafeteria, I chose tables with only a few kids. We didn’t talk much to each other; they probably had the same problems I did. Everyone at the table seemed a little scared. I was worried every day, even sitting in the cafeteria where some of my foes were.
One day, one person changed the rest of my life. He was very popular, with lots of friends at school. He hung out with other kids I knew by name, who knew me, but we didn’t socialize much. They just hadn’t paid any attention to me. “Bill” came up to me and said, “John, why don’t you come over and sit with us at our table?”
I couldn’t believe my ears. There was no reason for Bill to risk his popularity by inviting me to join his friends. I was nervous, even scared, but I said OK and went to sit down at his table. It was packed end to end, with about fifteen kids.
Those kids quickly became some of my best friends. I don’t remember if I had fun the first day, the third, or the thirtieth — but it was finally OK. I started walking home with some of my new friends and no longer had to run.
From then through high school, I was able to gain some self-respect. I became outgoing and confident, and made friends myself. I now own a home and business, and have a fulfilling social life. That all began when Bill asked me to join his table, where I met friends I still have 23 years later. I have never forgotten Bill’s kindness. He wasn’t obligated to include me, and may not even realize what an impact he had.
I now watch out for other people who might be the same as I was that day. They might be alone, nervous or scared. I learned that simple acts can have large impacts, and I know what one person can change in one day.
- “Children Playing at Beach Seaguls” via http://www.freesfx.co.uk
- “Kids playing park springtime” by jakobthiesen via freesound.org
- “Footsteps running away, fading” by rudmer-rotteveel via freesound.org
- “School cafeteria ambiance” by taxmanforever via freesound.org
- “Chair scrapes” by taxmanforever via freesound.org
- “Vineyard Walk” by digifishmusic via freesound.org
- Narration by Wayne Talmadge